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Q&A: Labels hold a dirty trans fat secret

Labels hold dirty trans fat secret

All the health and nutrition information I read seems to say steer clear of cookies and crackers because of the trans fat in them. Yet I read the labels on those products and they state zero trans fat. What gives?

It's good you're paying attention. Trans fat can raise bad cholesterol and triglycerides and lower good cholesterol, all of which is bad news for the heart. Experts say the daily recommended limit is 1.11 grams of trans fat a day, and most people will reach that just by eating meat and dairy products that naturally contain trans fat.

But this is important: In the world of government-mandated labeling, zero trans fat doesn't always mean zero. It's permissible to have up to 0.49 grams of trans fat in a serving of a product and still carry a label of "zero" trans fat.

So experts say the thing to look for in labeling is whether a product contains partially hydrogenated oil. That's an indicator that the product contains trans fat, no matter what the label says.

Solitaire game variations differ

I enjoy playing the Spider Solitaire game on my PC. I was wondering how many games do I play before the series of games begin again or are the hundreds of games I've played over the years truly new each time? Would the game makers share that information?

They might be willing, but the problem is there are hundreds of these types of solitaire games on PCs, phones and tablets, and each has its own setup that determines how many possible combinations it contains.

For example, Gary Rosenzweig of is a developer who has created a spider solitaire game ( He says "the cards are dealt randomly each time, just like if you were playing the game with real decks of cards on a physical table.

"Given a random deal of two decks of cards each time, I'm not sure of the number, but it might as well be infinite. I don't think you would repeat a game in a lifetime."

Others may have a million or more variations, others repeat periodically, and still others allow players to select the same game to work again.

Reader feedback

Some reader feedback on recent questions and answers at Ask the Times:

• On why Pinellas residents write checks directly to Diane Nelson, tax collector, one reader suggested another reason: "Because it increases name recognition for re-election time."

• On the collection of pull tabs, one reader said her daughter had collected 6 million pull tabs on behalf of the Shriners, which does accept such donations (another that participates in such drives is the Ronald McDonald House Charities). They were recycled, with the money benefiting the group. The main point of the answer remains — the value of the pull tabs is limited to the amount you get by recycling them.

Q&A: Labels hold a dirty trans fat secret

01/22/12 [Last modified: Sunday, January 22, 2012 3:30am]
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